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A Star Is Born (2018)
Authentic humanity and stunning performances.
The love story between the seasoned artist who helps the unknown talented girl to find her path as a singer may sound as something already seen and heard about, but this has no relevance: the movie has a deep humanity of its own and can be appreciated for this, being references to other classics barely useless.
I did not suffer the long running time, the first half of the movie being however more energetic than the second, but it couldn't be otherwise, since it gradually digs deeper and deeper in the most secretive folds of a love story, inside which the egocentrism of every person, especially of two artists, makes it impossible to find a common way to grow together. However, an involving movie from beginning till the end.
I do not agree with some criticism about its being too melodramatic, I did not perceive drama as excessive and above all I found it authentically rendered, thanks to the stunning photography, which does not make any concessions to the real faces of the protagonists.
As far to them, I was impressed by lady Gaga's stunning acting skills, and appreciated her chemistry with Bradley Cooper, who captures your good disposition towards the movie from the very first shot, and has remarkable skills as a singer, and as a passionate director, as well.
I loved the soundtrack, and the quality of the live performances always add something more to the intimate atmosphere of a movie that leaves you with healthy tears on your face.
Stunning acting for a strong dark picture
This is a very lucid dark movie, where the initial plot becomes a kind of painful pretext to plumb the deepest contradictions and phobias , the fanaticism and sectarianism, the fundamentalism as well as the vulnerability of part of American society.
The subject matter and the overall tone of the picture are very strong: anger, hate, violence and grief dominate, and I honestly did not grasp that comic touch noticed by some criticism.
No doubt everything works inside the picture: screenplay and shooting reinforce each other, but they could not work at full, hadn't they been supported by the top-notch acting. Frances Macdormand offers an Oscar deserving performance, once again proving her unique talent in such difficult and unpleasant roles, and all the cast does a great job.
While We're Young (2014)
Good idea but disappointing result
The basic idea of the picture could have been interesting if properly developed. The idea of setting the boring lives of a couple in their forties against the smart younger couple was intriguing at the beginning, but boringly conducted and ended with a big question mark. The dichotomy between old and young is not that simple and when the movie seems to exploit this idea, it suddenly takes a tumble and looks for an easier and reconciling finale. There's certainly good acting, Ben Stiller proves a good serious performer, confirming that talented comic actors can do a very good job in more serious roles, but lacks some due chemistry with Naomi Watts. The final result is rather disappointing: given its premises, the picture should have been more focused and much more daring.
Enigmatic psychological and metaphysical drama / thriller
This picture is something in-between a psychological drama, reflecting on the difficulties of couple life, when standing each other has just become a cold and rational play, and an entertaining and unpredictable thriller, with a kind metaphysical finale, open to personal interpretation. This first work by the director Vallo Toomla has the merit to keep up tension from beginning to end thanks to precise camera work, tense dialogues, a careful music choice, together with a real protagonist of the movie, the luxury but chilly house, a very appropriate setting to represent the golden rational cage where the main couple comes in search of something they will never regain. Every character and moment seems enigmatic, more appealing to our irrational perception of things, but despite some cryptic and somehow bewildering attitude, it stands out as an original and well made product, deserving a wider distribution.
Bonjour Anne (2016)
Nothing more than a celebration of French food and countryside
Food is a commonly known effective element in cinema, if you add a road trip across the French countryside and a possible love affair you may think it may result in an entertaining romance comedy. But this is not the case with "Paris can wait", a picture that unfortunately never gets off: it is just a sequence of delicious well framed plates and nice scenery , inside which you wait for some meaning to come out, after a course or after a speed up on a bend, but it never arrives, or at least I could not grasp it. Diane Lane is a very good performer, but chemistry with her partners is missing, mainly if compared with other pictures of hers, which makes this picture even more disappointing. In the end you just fell like eating something or setting off on trip, but I do not need a picture to stimulate both needs, so just a piece of advice: do not see this movie when you feel hungry or you can't afford a holiday.
Certain Women (2016)
A sober, minimal but intense portrait of women, expertly interpreted
It's years since I saw a sober movie on women like this. Used to a cinematography where the female inner world often needs to be too much explicitly exhibited, with women moving from anxious neurotic creatures to incomprehensible beings, here we have a very delicate presentation of four women living in the wide and remote plains of Montana. The vastness of the landscape, fascinating and disquieting at the same time, is the ideal setting for the presentation of a vast, both still and restless inner female world, expertly rendered by the interpreters. Each of them did a great job, especially Lily Gladstone who does not speak more than a hundred words, but lives her character with rare intensity. As a woman, this is a picture I deeply appreciated: at last a movie showing off no excesses and no exhibited emphasis. When less is definitely more.
An enjoyable and heartfelt movie focused on fatherhood
Fatherhood seems to be, on different levels , a very dear issue to the latest cinematography: after "Manchester by the sea", "Radin" and "Demain tout commence", I bumped into this new picture, where a young man has to raise his young niece, coming to terms with unexpected paternity. Although thought-provoking , and sharing the same serious concern, the picture does not reach the quality of "Manchester by the sea", both in terms of screenplay and acting. Lonergan's movie had a more introspective attitude towards family bonds, and fatherhood as well. Here we find a more entertaining attitude and plot, but managing to involve the viewer: the story proceeds with a steady pace and a focused direction, probably without rolling too much in the deep, but still capable of arousing thoughts and feelings. Acting is also good, the little girl especially offers a very heartfelt interpretation in a tough role, and shows a very good chemistry with Chris Evans, who does a good job, but is less convincing than Casey Affleck. On the whole, it's an overall enjoyable movie, good for both mind and soul.
A funny and tender farce
There's certainly something farcical inside this picture, where the characters, especially the protagonist, are so exaggerated as to get caricatures of themselves, and situations get sometimes grotesque. However, this farce works, bringing about a lot of fun, and even tenderness. Dany Boom's facial expressions and mimic are simply exhilarating and would be enough to make one laugh, but he is surrounded and supported by amusing folks, who help to give rise to an enjoyable comedy, where drama comes only near the end to awaken a spirit of loving fatherhood, thus arousing also tender feelings. Comedy prevails, and successfully.
Confused and unfocused mess
I had great expectations from this movie, but, to my great displeasure, I have to say that the guarantee of Isabelle Huppert was not enough to raise it above the level of an incomprehensible and unfocused pseudo thriller. It is not the disturbing, although definitely too reiterated masochism inside the main plot: had it been more exploited, it could have resulted in an interesting analysis of some perverted mechanisms inside the human mind. The problem is the presence of a number of subplots, just hinted at and never developed, that result in a total mess of situations and characters, leading nowhere, either in the good or in the bad. I would have appreciated at least a more coherent finale, which on the contrary seems a hurried and puzzling reconciliation of people and situations that seemed totally controverted and unsolved till one moment before. Isabelle Huppert does always a very good job, but unfortunately heading nowhere, trapped herself inside a difficult, but undeveloped character, with no safe or focused direction. On the whole, a disappointing and overrated picture.
Demain tout commence (2016)
moving and amusing
This is the typical well made comedy–drama, where the wise combination of funny and moving elements results in a good product, also thanks to the good acting performances. Omar Sy really feels his character and is certainly the pillar of strength of a sometimes weak screenplay, but still capable of arousing deep emotion. The (usual) bad Italian translation of the original title (Demain tout commence), with the addition of a useless subtitle, does not render the intention of a picture that wants to touch some delicate chords of human sensitivity, in a very simple and natural way, and manages to do that quite effectively.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
A realistic, heartfelt and very well interpreted elaboration of grief
Manchester by the sea is a very serious and well focused picture about family bonds, when grief comes all of a sudden to upset your normal life and getting along with it becomes a reiteration of useless gestures. Here's the slowness of a picture to be understood, a picture which gives time to characters and situations, and may seem not to able to stand off the ground, but on the contrary does reflect the real timing and perception of life when you are deeply affected by loss and pain.
However, despite its slowness, the picture kept me involved from beginning to end, and the long runtime with its constant moving backwards did not affect my attention. The elaboration of grief is a long and slow process, and this picture reflects this process as it is in real life: unfortunately, our attention span as viewers, readers and often as human beings is often too short, but pictures like this one can remind us that attention and elaboration require time and slowness.
Well deserved Oscar for Casey Affleck, who managed to exploit every single step of grief with a heartfelt and authentic interpretation, and reached a deep chemistry with the boy playing his nephew. Michelle Williams also offered a strong performance although in a minor role. The screenplay was effective, since it was able to combine the seriousness of the topic with some slightly humorous tone, but never forgetting the highly and successfully committed aim of the narration.
A realistic and affecting slice of a woman's life
I read some reviews wondering about the point of the movie: I think asking for the point is simply insignificant when watching a movie like this. It depicts a portion of a mature woman's life, a philosophy teacher and an intellectually brilliant editor, having to come to terms with loss, abandonment and conscious aging. One would say: nothing new, nothing original, or interesting. On the contrary, I found the picture deeply affecting, in the apparently placid but still very focused and deep way it portray this normal life. It reflects so realistically the natural and typical feminine facing of things as they come, that it gets intrinsically authentic and involving. As usual, Isabelle Huppert does not only interpret but lives her character and is the real pillar of strength of the picture. If you love unpretentious but simply authentic women's stories you'll like this movie, and you won't have to ask where the point is.
La La Land (2016)
A well made, well interpreted and enjoyable musical
If you are looking for a classical well packaged musical, La La land is ready to satisfy your search, and even if you are not a great fan of musicals, La La land may appeal to you, too. The story is the classical story of a boy and a girl looking for artistic success and falling in love, with all the difficulties that the opposition between success and love bring about, and with a finale which is not that predictable. What is appealing indeed is not the story in itself, but the way it is shot and performed. Shooting is flawless, music is entertaining but never obtrusive or boring, dances and songs are enjoyable and charming, the overall atmosphere is full of charm and soul. And the two protagonists make a difference: Ryan Gosling does a truly excellent job, offering a thorough performance, playing the piano, singing and dancing very well, and showing a very good and convincing chemistry with Emma Stone, who offers a talented performance, too. The final result is that of a solid, charming and well made musical, a perfect execution by the young Chazelle, who proves to be a very promising director.
The Light Between Oceans (2016)
A little too melodramatic, but well shot and interpreted
The plot does not make the beauty either of a book or a movie. This is the case with "The light between the oceans", where the predictable and sometimes too melodramatic plot is still able to awaken the emotional involvement of the viewer thanks to its cinematography and acting. I liked the slow but poignant shooting, able to capture the characters' emotional inner world, thus transcending the melodramatic imprinting of the story. And I also appreciated the delicacy of the couple's love story and the sober but intense interpretation by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikande, and Rachel Weizs also added something valuable. The moral issue of what doing the right thing means is probably too simplistically faced as well as the meaning of parenthood and raising a child. On the whole, the form was far better than the content, but still enjoyable.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
dull, boring and lacking all the features of a good thriller
What makes a good thriller worth of this definition is the presence of thrills, of a surging suspense, and a mounting sensation that something unpredictable will happen, always supported by strong characters, ready to shake our expectations and our perception of humanity.
This is exactly what lacks in this picture: no thrills, predictable events, no suspense, dull characters, all packaged in a badly made product. The slow pace (sometimes, and not that originally interrupted by sudden flashbacks), the inconsistent performances (moreover made more annoying by the use of a trashy language), the boring scenes (among which the explicit sex scenes stand out as really disturbing), do not help the picture arise above the level of a man-hating TV drama, without any consistency and on the whole disappointing.
Café Society (2016)
Light reigns inside a nostalgic and melancholic portray
Allen goes back to the 30's, the decade when he was born, with a nostalgic and melancholic look, towards a Hollywood world that no longer exists. The plot is simple and predictable, but what matters is not as much the story as the way it is portrayed. The collaboration with Vittorio Storaro, a master in the use of light allows Allen to create an effective atmosphere, inside which the love story hides a feeling of melancholy and nostalgia. And probably for the first time in Allen's production, nostalgia is not only for a genuine and naif cinematographic world, lost for good, but also for a genuine and pure vision of love.
Besides good interpreters, what really reigns in the picture is the wise and strongly effective use of light, from the wonderful amber and golden light of the opening scene on the edge of a swimming pool, to the awesome and never boring shooting of the Manhattan skyline from the bay, or from Bow bridge in central park, where New York appears as an embroidery of light and colour, the umpteenth declaration of love by Allen, and for the first time the necessary setting for that pure and naif vision of love. The picture is indeed a pleasure for the eye, a melancholic but still delightful evocation of old times ways of living and loving.
good picture, solid message and strong performances
We must destroy in order to rebuild: the message of the picture is clear, I would say very physically clear, since there's much physical destruction, and I found it a very empathetically convincing message, since who has never felt like destroying a place, just to get rid of the past, of something we hate or no longer stand?
The story develops with a steady and quick pace, but is also intertwined by dreamy moments, which soften the overall realistic attitude of the movie. The incisive soundtrack is also wisely chosen to give more value to some emotionally intense moments or to enliven the atmosphere. The cast does a great job, Jake Gyllenhall truly inhabits his difficult and at times incomprehensible character, and is worthily supported by a never disappointing Naomi Watts, and the little boy offers a good performance, too.
On the whole an enjoyable and also thought provoking picture, which leaves much to think about what could lie beneath the ruins if we had the courage to deconstruct the more or less frail scaffold of our existence.
Sous les jupes des filles (2014)
Enjoyable, but too many divas
The movie stars 11 women living in Paris, each one being strongly, sometimes too strongly characterized, and each one having to face her own idiosyncrasies. Most of them seem to be concerned with sex, so that sexual tension is evident from beginning to end, except a sad and tough story which appears as out of place inside the movie. On the whole, the quick shooting captures the viewer's attention and keeps up with the hysterical incidents of these over the top lives. The only problem is that 11 divas are too many for a single movie: each one is looking for her moment of glory, and the result is a clamped run to give every woman her final great chance, leading to a congestion of key moments. The movie offers indeed enjoyable situations, but a smaller number of heroines would have probably been enough. Less quantity in favour of more accurate characterization would have certainly added more quality to the picture.
A stunning and emotionally gripping act of love towards mankind
A heartfelt and deeply committed doc-pic, HUMAN is of course something more and beyond a picture, it's an act of faithful love towards mankind, towards the frailties and strength of humanity, highlighting the intolerable but still arising contradictions of a sometimes illogical human world.
The high-definition close-up shots of people's faces, courageously and honestly opening their soul to the viewer, creates a strong empathy and a sense of connection transcending all borders: we all feel the same, hurt the same, think the same. I found some interviews really touching, although never pathetic or overly affectionate, simply because real and human.
The short intimate accounts of personal lives are spaced with visually stunning slow-motion aerial shots of impressive natural and human landscapes, and the music also complements the high emotional value of the picture, which I would highly recommend to see.
A weird piobic, where the cast makes a difference
This a weird and dreamlike biopic, loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, an inventor and strong mother who got rich in the 90's, by selling a revolutionary self-wringing mop. No doubt, Jennifer Lawrence gives a strong lead-performance, and the other actors are all around supporting her very well. This is one of those movies where the cast can make a difference to sustain and give depth to a story which is not that interesting or deep by itself, but leaves, despite its confused narration, many thought provoking hints at the numerous dysfunctions inside family. There are hilarious moments, counterbalanced by more dramatic and tense ones, always held together by a magnetic Jennifer Lawrence, who will probably please more the female audience, offering the model of a woman who does not need a man to stand up and face life.
Begin Again (2013)
A fresh and heartwarming New York summer ballad
If you are looking for a feel-good movie, you have found one to see. It's a movie about friendship, about failures and new beginnings, about solidarity, about second chances, about life. It's also about love, and what I liked most was the total absence of trite sentimentalism, which would have ruined the meaning and sense of the story, where feelings are never made explicit, but simply flow along with the music played and sung in the corners of New York. And what new, what else can be said about this unique city?: still full of hope, full of life, still the place nurturing the dreams of men and women, and even where an album can be recorded en plein air. I liked the warm and heartwarming atmosphere and the settings, I also liked the songs, which are never obtrusive and manage to communicate how music can shape and even change people and things. As far as acting, Mark Ruffalo really steals the show, thanks to a strong and biting performance, Keira Knightley does her good job as an actress and as a singer, as well. On the whole, a truly enjoyable, fresh picture, making one feel like being there
The Two Faces of January (2014)
Sophisticated, old-fashioned thriller, lacking some tension
The movie reminds the old-school thrillers of the past, with sophisticated settings, a solid simple plot, a steady direction, a definite ending, and a thoroughly refined atmosphere which make it enjoyable and pleasant to see. Once said this, the movie lacks something in terms of tension, which starts to be built only in the second part of the picture, far better than the first, not only for tension in itself, but because the psychological complexity of characters and the relationships between them (mainly between Chester and Rydal, the two real protagonists of the story) are explored and make the movie more interesting from a content point of view. I think Viggo Mortensen offered the best performance, playing a really difficult character, but in general the whole cast is one of high quality. The final ending putting everything in its place does not disappoint and is not so predictable, considering nowadays movies, always looking for unexpected and shocking endings. Those who read the novel may judge whether the picture pays homage to it (for example "The l talented Mr Ripley" was far more intriguing and psychologically deep): on the whole, the movie is certainly not a masterpiece of its genre, but good for a pleasant night at the cinema.
Un ragazzo d'oro (2014)
mediocre and underdeveloped
This is the typical movie which you end watching by saying: it could have been much more. There are good, perhaps too many, starting points: the father-son relationship, the interaction folly-creativity, an editorial world impossible to enter, together with the reflection upon a mediocre Italian cinematography belonging to the past, but still living in the present. Unfortunately, they remain suspended, only hinted at, and are also devalued by a sometimes banal script. As far as acting, the cast seems subdued: Scamarcio is a little monotonous, Sharon Stone proves once again how she is ageing splendidly, but her character is penalized by a terrible dubbing, which stresses more her innocent rather than manipulative nature, and some characters are either unexplored (the student) or useless (the girlfriend). The only exception is Giovanna Ralli playing the mother, offering a very heartfelt interpretation. What remains is a sense of incompleteness, which could be interesting if it left material to think about, but this is not the case, where it looks more like the result of a sort of tiredness by the director, who can't soar to great heights or at least to an expected higher level.
Allacciate le cinture (2014)
That delicate and bright touch by Fernand Ozpetek
One may like or not Ozpetek's movies, but what is undeniable is that peculiar delicate touch which makes his movies like paintings only sketched and never accomplished, because accomplishment is not what really matters. This does mean his movies are ethereal or lack sense or reality: on the contrary, they are imbued with reality, often with dramatic reality, and "Allacciate le cinture" is a fine example, but what remains is not the sense of drama, but the delicacy of sentiments. In this picture you will not find an original plot, but I have never seen the theme of cancer treated with such strong sense of reality and at the same time with such delicacy and even fun, focusing on a choral world of fear, love, rage, tenderness, amusement
Shooting is always very carefully devised as to close up to the characters' eyes, without the need of too many words, and everything is wrapped around a bright light, enveloping characters and situations in a comforting hug. The cast is also wisely chosen, I was positively surprised by Kasia Smutniak, who leaves the mark, beyond her disarming beauty. And then there's a whole world of recurring characters in his movies, but who touches for intensity and bravura is Paola Minaccioni, who made me laugh and cry so much
I have read negative reviews concerning a melodramatic attitude of the picture: I think melodrama is exactly what Ozpetek avoids, and successfully.
Very well shot and greatly acted
From the point of view of content, "Mud" is a traditional coming-of-age tale, dealing with teenagers facing those important experiences that will shape their adulthood, making the first significant decisions of their lives. In this sense, the movie is not original and does not add anything new to a long-dated cinematography about young boys growing up through tough experiences. Also the importance of nature, in this case the majestic and impressive Mississippi river, is always part of this kind of movies, where nature is always there as a necessary background to remind the primitive and irrational side of man. However, what impresses in the movie is the quality and precision of shooting, thanks to which every single character is given the chance to emerge beyond a rather flimsy plot, and the river itself becomes a true character embracing and shaping the life of each character. Of course, this great work would be useless, were it not supported by a talented cast, and here acting is one of high quality: Matthew Mcconaghey once again proves at ease in tormented, suffering and yet strong roles, and the young Tye Sheridan seems a very promising actor. On the whole, despite its excessive length and some unnecessary violence, the movie is a good piece of cinema and can appeal both young and adult viewers.